We live in an age where it is easy to take for granted the accessibility of information and the transparency of authority and celebrities. The type of disclosure that we are exposed to is nearly too much information, but in the near past, mum was the word for everything: government operations, the President’s life, even the lifestyle of Hollywood stars was more speculation than fact. In 1971, government secrecy was challenged in the first major leak of top-secret government information, the disclosure of a series of studies nicknamed the Pentagon Papers.
The Pentagon Papers detailed the history of US military involvement in Indochina before and during the Vietnam War. In 1971, the conflict in the Pacific was quite controversial; many Americans mistrusted the government and opposed the war effort. When David Ellsberg, a member of the RAND Corporation with a top-secret clearance, came to staunchly oppose the war effort he decided it would be in the public’s best interest to release the details of the Pentagon Papers. After a few failed attempts to get senators to disclose the information, he handed the information over to Neil Sheehan of the New York Times.
The confessions that the Pentagon Papers contained infuriated many citizens. It proved what many had suspected, the government had mislead and misinformed the public about US involvement in Vietnam. The papers revealed that the conflict had been intentionally escalated at some points and in many cases, the President had plans for the war that were not necessarily beneficial to the country. The media exposed the truth. Nixon had to deal with this breach of security (although Ellsberg intentionally left out any part of the documents that would jeopardize national safety) and there was no precedent for it. The president turned to unsavory methods of disgracing Ellsberg, as he was wont to do.
Although the relationship between governmental secrecy and an obligation to share information with the citizens will always exist in a gray area, the release of the Pentagon Papers helped to set a precedent for transparency. People wanted a right to know what was going on in government to make informed decisions about what to support or oppose. Through media, people are able to keep up with the actions of authority. An informed population keeps a democratic system running smoothly, and the job of media is to disclose the truth to them.

Article talking about the pentagon studies
New York Times article spills the truth to the public, breaking the precedent of governmental secrecy

http://www.archives.gov/research/pentagon-papers/
http://www.history.com/topics/vietnam-war/pentagon-papers
http://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/rethinking-the-pentagon-papers

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